Evander Kane has missed 55 games over the last two years, and his debut season with the Buffalo Sabres hasn't gone as planned after suffering another injury.
That's precisely the reason why the former 30-goal scorer is excited to be back earlier than anticipated.
The winger is expected to play for the first time in 11 games Thursday night as the visiting Sabres try to avoid dropping a seventh straight meeting with the St. Louis Blues.
Kane appeared in only 37 games for Winnipeg in 2014-15 because of various ailments ranging from a hand infection to a shoulder surgery that ended his season in February. The Jets dealt him to Buffalo (8-9-1) that same month in a seven-player deal, and the Sabres are hoping he'll be a big part of their rebuilding project.
A sprained MCL suffered Oct. 24 in a loss to New Jersey originally was expected to keep him out four to six weeks, but Kane is prepared to come back in about three after participating in practice Wednesday. He has one goal, two assists and a minus-5 rating while Buffalo has gone 2-6-0 in the games he's played.
"I think you'll probably have a good chance of seeing me in the lineup," Kane told the team's official website. "Things went well as I expected and like I said, I thought I had a chance to play on the trip and it looks like that's going to be the case."
Coach Dan Bylsma confirmed Kane is a good possibility to play in this contest and at Dallas on Saturday. The Stars dealt the Sabres their second straight loss, 3-1 on Tuesday.
Ryan O'Reilly has scored both of Buffalo's goals in those defeats, and the Sabres also could find it difficult to get chances against the physical Blues (12-6-1), whom they face again Monday at home.
"Big, heavy offensive zone, forwards forechecking - it's a big man's game and that's what they present," Bylsma said. "I don't think we've seen a team like that so far this year through the 18 games."
St. Louis has struggled lately, though, allowing 15 goals while dropping three of four. Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk scored the lone goal in the first period in a 3-1 loss at Columbus on Tuesday that was the club's third game in four nights.
"We didn't have any energy, so I don't know what to chalk it up to," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "If you don't have any energy, you come in second place everywhere."
Brian Elliott made 35 saves, but it's likely Jake Allen will be back in net. Allen, who has a 1.91 goals-against average in 12 starts and one relief appearance, shut out the Sabres in his only start against them Feb. 5 to help St. Louis extend its series streak.
St. Louis won the other matchup last season 6-1 with Jori Lehtera recording the first hat trick of his career. Lehtera, though, is a game-time decision for this one after taking a high stick to the throat and leaving in the second period against Columbus.
It's unclear if Chad Johnson or rookie Linus Ullmark will get the start in net for Buffalo. Ullmark has a 2.07 GAA over his last six after losing to Dallas, and Johnson has stopped 70 of 73 shots over his last three appearances.
The Sabres will be without forward Zemgus Girgensons for at least the next two because of an upper-body injury.